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Aloha Steve

Dining in Las Vegas: Part 2

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Last week I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas dining at some old favorites and visiting a few new restaurants. The original purpose of the trip was to meet up with some local friends and Food Writers to celebrate one last meal at Valentino at the Venetian. I'll report on the meal at Valentino a bit later, but we got some good news while I was in town--Valentino's lease has been extended and the restaurant will stay open until the first week of November. Apparently it's going to be a few more months before all the paperwork and construction plans for DBGB, (Daniel Boulud Gourmet Burger), will be ready to proceed. (Here's a tip, if you love fresh white truffles from Alba, head to Valentino in mid-September when the season gets going and you will be treated to the most earthy, fragrant, elusive truffles found anywhere in the world).

I stayed at The Palazzo during this trip, a sort of faux Italian, marble-plated, upscale type of hotel. The Palazzo and its cousin the Venetian are linked to the Sands Convention Center, so during the week both hotels are rife with stampeding conventioneers. You can't miss 'em, they're the folks with the dangling ID badges that expose their identity, the city from whence they came and the order of their business in Las Vegas. But during the weekend, (especially Friday and Saturday), the throngs go home and the hotel typically has plenty of rooms available at incredible rates. As opposed to other Strip hotels that don't rely as heavily on the convention trade, The Palazzo actually lowers their rates on some weekends, a huge bargain if you can find it since all the rooms are large suites, (real suites, not those silly boxes they call suites at Holiday Inn Express).

Day One, Lunch-

The first restaurant I went to when I arrived Friday afternoon was Grimaldi's in the shops at The Palazzo. In addition to a rash of steakhouses and gourmet burger joints, pizza is all the rage in Las Vegas. Since the base of all great pizza is formed in the dough, I figured an authentic, 100 year-old New York pizzeria that hangs its hat on pizza cooked in a coal-fired oven just had to be good. Unfortunately, I had a long experience at Grimaldi's yet never tasted their pie.

For a guy who has spent the better part of 34 years in the customer service business, such things as attentiveness to diners, (even at a pizza joint), make a difference. The hostess graciously took down my order-to-go for a basic pie with pepperoni and anchovies. "It'll be about 10-15 minutes Mr. Ross and I'll come get you when it's ready." (She knew my name because I charged the pizza to my room, a wonderful convenience afforded to guests staying and dining at The Palazzo and Venetian).

Ten minutes go by, no pizza. Fifteen, twenty, thirty and forty-no pizza. All the time, said hostess is having what apparently is a deep, thoughtful conversation with a guy drinking bottled beer at the bar. As numerous waitresses and other hosts walked by, not one acknowledged my plea for a pizza. And then……..I left. Should you wish to tempt fate and test the service at Grimaldi's, this is the link to their website and menu:

http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Casual-Dining/Grimaldis/

Day One, Dinner-

Based on the recommendation of my good friend John Curtas, author of the blog http://www.eatinglv.com/, I made a reservation at Emeril’s Table 10.

I’ve eaten at Emeril’s other restaurants in Las Vegas for years and I’ve never been disappointed. Emeril and Wolfgang Puck are two celebrity chefs who stand out in Las Vegas for consistently delivering top-notch cuisine and service. Some of their contemporaries don’t hold a candle to these two gentlemen and their talented staff. Leave the TMZ columns to Gordon Ramsay and his minions, the group at Table 10 puts the food first.

The kitchens at Table 10 are led by the young and talented Chef de Cuisine Tim Doolittle. Young in terms of age, Chef Doolittle is a veteran in terms of experience. Chef and the crew quietly go about crafting a menu of new American cuisine using fresh, seasonal ingredients with Emeril’s signature Louisiana accents. The menu is reasonably priced in comparison to other fine dining establishments in Las Vegas and this summer Table 10 is offering a four-course menu for the very comfortable price of $45.00.

Everyone raves about the Candied North Country Farm Bacon appetizer, but I started with the Fried Great Lakes Smelt with Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise ($ 10.00). . Listed under the “Snacks” portion of the menu, what came to the table was an overflowing paper-lined cone filled with enough fried fish to feed a family of four. I remember eating fried smelt caught with a dip-net out of the Columbia River when I was a kid living in Oregon. They were fairly large as smelt go, up to 5 or 6 inches. The Great Lakes Smelt at Table 10 were about half that size, crispy little who fish no more than 3 inches in length. The mayonnaise lacked the salty tang characteristic of preserved lemons, but that was a minor off note for what was otherwise a unique and delicious opening dish. The bar makes deep, strong drinks like the classic Sazerac that I drank while nibbling on the smelt.

The list of entrée’s at Table 10 explore a number of flavors, textures and seasonal American products in dishes like Gulf Flounder “Meuniere” with Shrimp and Dirty Rice, Rotisserie Kurobata Pork Rack with Weiser Farm Carrots and Anson Mills Grits.

I went Southern in celebration of Emeril’s time in New Orleans and ordered the Creole Duck with Abita Beer Glaze, Garlic Sausage, Hush Puppies, Sour Apples and Green Beans, ($ 35.00). The duck had been marinated in the beer, then sautéed and roasted to a perfect medium-rare accented by the sweet flavor of the reduced beer glaze. Emeril no doubt sources a large species of duck as it was a very large portion, akin to the Magret duck breasts favored by the French. Unfortunately, the garlic sausage had a mushy texture and lacked proper seasoning, heat and spice. The sour apples missed the mark--two thick slices of apple tasted as though they were merely sautéed in butter and sugar. Apples and duck are a classic accompaniment, but something mis-fired in the kitchen and the line cook apparently forgot to order tart apples and hold off on the sugar.

The disappointment over the sausage and apples was tempered by the incredibly crisp, moist and flavorful hush puppies. In the mind of a Northwesterner, I had always frowned upon these deep-fried cornmeal balls, owing mainly to having tasted hush puppies at the Kentucky State Fair years ago. Chef Doolittle had stuffed the hush puppied with corn nuggets and diced jalapeno for a bit of heat and they were delicious.

While the orders of Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Shavings, Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream were whisked to other tables, I couldn’t bring myself to eat another bite. Dessert at Table 10 will have to wait.

http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Fine-Dining/Table-10/

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It's a delight to see David Ross on Vegas food once again. I'm chagrinned at the poor service at Grimaldi as I had intended to try their pie to compare it with the "crust imported from Boston" pies at my VVN friend's new place Wicked Pizza. I normally limit starch consumption in Vegas to concentrate on what proteins/vegies and intelligently conceived ingredients can tantalize my palate without filling my stomache. Due Forne really doesn't seem worth the cab ride. Had pizza for dinner tonight and there was a time when ( I think Gerald Ford was your president) I lived on pizza but it's not why I go to a city where some of the planet's best chefs come to play. Alas, I won't get to Vegas until after Valentino closes, but I thank you for turning me on to its exquisiteness and in a city where superior service seems ubiquitous, that was something I'll never forget.

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Day Two, Lunch-

As a veteran Las Vegas diner, one knows to pace oneself when you are engaging in a 3-day gastronomic orgy. You either choose breakfast and dinner or lunch and dinner, but not all three. You resist temptation and avoid all buffets and you drink copious amounts of water and take lengthy naps during the afternoon. This is all done in an attempt to strengthen your fortitude to be able to consume more gourmet fare than you will eat for the next 6 months when you get back home. So while I was in Las Vegas for three mornings, I only ate breakfast on Sunday and that day I skipped lunch.

The morning coffee and croissant only held me over until 11:00 a.m. on Saturday when Otto Enoteca Pizzeria opened. Located in what is billed as “San Marco Square,” (a large, cavernous hall that is the anchor of one end of the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian), Otto Enoteca is both the best and worst of the Celebrity Chef culture in Las Vegas.

A partnership between Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, (you know his Mother, Lydia, she cooks Italian on PBS), Otto Enoteca should be a soft introduction to guests of the marriage between Italian wine and quality ingredients crafted into familiar, yet authentic dishes. That’s one of the better aspects of what this restaurant should be. Yet the expectations of dining in the restaurant of a former "Iron Chef" is quickly tempered by reality.

One of the alluring aspects of the restaurant is the literal tower of salumi that is the center foundation of the bar. As you pass through the entrance onto the dining patio, the wood and glass butcher's case tempts you with a variety of hand-crafted, perfectly aged meats and cheeses. Haunches of pork “prosciutto,” all manner of salumi hanging from racks and cheeses aging in a climate-controlled nest. You just believe it must be good at the house of Batali, it's in his blood. Heck, Mario's Father Armandino is the poster-child for Salumi at his sandwich shop up in Seattle, so his boy must know how to pair cured pork with fruit. Musn't he? Up to this point, all seems well as you anticipate a memorable meal at the hands of a Celebrity Chef. Yet sadly, like so much of Las Vegas, the anticipation is far more tantalizing than the actual experience.

The menu at Otto includes sections for Formaggi-Cheese, Fritti-Fried, Carne-House Cured Meats, Verdure-Vegetables, Pizza, Insalate-Salads, Pasta, Piatti-Entrees, Contorni-Warm Sides and Gelato. There’s also a daily special of Bruschetta (savory little spreads on bread), Pasta and Pizza.

Like so many restaurants in Las Vegas, the waitstaff is not always hired or trained under the auspices of the Celebrity Chef who lends his or her name over the door. They may be well-schooled and experienced working for the mega-Venetian/Palazzo resort, but they don’t know the difference between Spanish Jambon Iberico Ham and Italian Prosciutto. Does it matter? To the average tourist, maybe not, but if the server knows the delicate nature of cured, preserved hams and salumi or the nuances between a strong sheep's milk cheese and a mild cow's milk cheese, they’ll do better justice to their customers and one hopes, take greater pride in their service. A Celebrity Chef’s name is only going to carry a place so long—these famous folks of the food world know better and they are selling us short by not providing their employees with proper training.

As the waitstaff goes, so often goes the kitchen crew at the Celebrity Chef joints. Cooks trained only by rote have been trained to do a task and to do it quickly, there’s no focus on putting any personality or flair on the plates and it shows. As such, the type of dishes you expect from Mario Batali, fall short again and again.

I started with the Melon and Prosciutto Salad with Ricotta Salata and Mint, ($14). The salad was stunning in terms of presentation, and I don’t mean stunning in a good way. Large slabs of cantaloupe and honeydew were stacked in layers reaching upwards of 6 inches off the plate. A literal tower of melon that could feed at least four. The melon was cut in what I call the “buffet-style,” three sharp-angled cuts that are the quick and easy way to chop the rind off a melon. It looked sloppy and my taste buds were telling me it would taste sloppy. Properly cut melon takes a bit more time to gently shave the rind off the melon yet preserve the natural curve and shape of the fruit.

The shredded prosciutto glopped on top of the melon lacked flavor and texture. One shouldn’t have to add a dash of salt to good prosciutto. The ricotta salata, had it been noticeable, would have provided a bit of tang and the salt that was lacking in the prosciutto. Other than a few threads, the fresh fragrance of mint was missing and to add insult to this sad composition, parmesan was coarsely-grated over the top of the mess. (Properly cut wide, thin ribbons of prosciutto evoke the salty characteristics of this fatty ham and give perfect texture to this classic dish)As they say, the devil lurks in the details. (There happens to be a James-Beard Award-Winning Chef a few doors down from Otto. An unassuming guy who doesn't probably have the word celebrity in his vocabulary. He happens to get prosciutto and melon right).

The salad was followed by the pizza “Romano” ($18), a good sized pie for one with tomato, mozzarella, anchovy, capers and chili. The thin crust had good texture, all chewy and charred, but lacked flavor and tasted no better than store-bought flatbread. The spicy tomato and chili sauce was very good, but the anchovies were a disappointment. Six little fresh anchovies, one per slice. As Americans, we’ve developed a flavor for salted anchovies preserved in oil and in the case of pizza, those are the flavors I prefer. Salted anchovies sort of melt into the pizza, giving a salinity and hint of the sea. Otto's stinky anchovies had a strong, fishy taste typically favored by cats.

What should have been a delicious, leisurely Saturday lunch watching the tourists pass through the mall at a restaurant created by the empire of a Celebrity Chef turned out to be an over-priced disappointment. We so wanted to like you Otto.

%5Burl="http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Casual-Dining/Enoteca-Otto-Pizzeria/"]http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Casual-Dining/Enoteca-Otto-Pizzeria/

Day Two, Dinner-
The anticipated event of the trip was dinner at Valentino. After a long 14-year run, Valentino will close in early November to make way for Daniel Boulud’s DBGB restaurant. The food cognescenti have been mourning the Boulud’s departure from Las Vegas ever since he parted ways with the Wynn a few years back. It was a sad day when Boulud left Las Vegas, and it will be a triumphant day when he brings his eponymous foie gras and short rib stuffed burger to town.

It’s not often that we witness a James-Beard Award-Winning Restaurateur, Chef and Staff pushed to the side in order to bring the newest derivation of a gastro-pub to Las Vegas. Mind you, there is no argument here about my enthusiasm for welcoming Boulud back to Las Vegas. I’d much rather see one of his restaurants land on the Strip than see another Gordon Ramsay shop open up, yet lost in the celebration will be a sense of sadness over the closing of Valentino, arguably one of the best Italian restaurants in America.

The service at Valentino is a blend of old-school and contemporary--precise yet not overly-fawning, the waiter exchanging silverware with each course, water is poured when appropriate, crumbs are brushed away, a new plate of parmesan crisps appears without asking, a proper meat knife is presented for the lamb course. The sommelier carefully pours the wine as he relates the terroir in which the grapes were cultivated, his passion for wine quietly evident. But one need not feel intimidated as if you were in the house of one of the French Masters of Las Vegas, it is the wont of the staff to make you feel comfortable and relaxed.

We were seated at a private table in an alcove just off the main dining room. Chef Pellegrini, a gracious Italian host, introduced each of the eight courses. As we weave through the photos, I’ll describe how the details of each dish--the ingredients, the texures, flavors and presentations, all married together to create a unique and extraordinary dinner.

Prosciutto with Chilled Cantalope and Diced Honeydew-
035.JPG
The mastery behind this dish is that with just a few, unique touches, the Chef crafted new textures, (a chilled puree of cantalope paired with tiny diced honeydew) that reminded us of the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon. It wasn't done to be trendy, it was done
to evoke a new way of tasting a traditional dish. The cooks at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria could learn a few things from Chef Pellegrini.

Vancouver Island Kushi Oysters "Caprese" with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Oil-
037.JPG
The traditional Caprese salad is a composition of thick slices of tomato layered with fresh mozzarella and dressed with basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. But can a Chef craft this stalwart of Italian menus in a new and exciting way yet without creating a sous-vide monster of molecular gastronomy? Imagine a briny, fresh oyster no bigger than a quarter, fished from the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. A little jewel swimming in a fragrant bath of basil oil with a sweet baby tomato and a little nugget of creamy, tangy mozzarela. One sudden burst of invigorating flavors that we never thought could come from what we remember as a simple salad.

Australian Spanner Crab Cake on Sweet Corn-
(no photo)
The Australians have perfected a method of harvesting the maximum amount of meat from the spanner crab. They are hard-shelled buggars, but the meat is soft, sweet and has a delicate texture. It doesn't need the support of any starchy fillers or dicey vegatables.
The crab was molded into small cakes and simply sauteed in butter and olive oil and set atop a mound of warm corn salad

Shellfish Bucatini with Bottarga-
039.JPG
"Is this spaghetti" the uninformed may ask. Bucatini is the oft-forgotten cousin of spaghetti, yet it hides a beautiful little secret. Nearly twice the diameter of spaghetti, bucatini has a tiny little hole bored through the middle of the noodle, allowing it to plump up when cooked. It's the perfect pasta to weave through a stew of fresh clams and scallops. But this simple dish has another secret, delicate shavings of bottarga, the prized salted, cured fish roe coveted by Italians. Not nearly as salty as caviar nor as strong as uni, bottarga lends a flavor of the sea as it melds into the warm bucatini and shellfish.

Veal "Saltimbocca" Wrapped in Pasta with Summer Truffle and Fried Sage-
043.JPG
It looks simple, even humbe. Two wrapped parcels lounging beneath a blanket of cream sauce. And then again, Chef Pellegrini surpises us with what we uncover-tender filets of veal wrapped in prosciutto and gently wrapped in a thin layer of pasta. Napped with a heady, fragrant sauce studded with generous amounts of black truffle, one only needs a few bites to be satisfied by this rich combination.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Port Wine Demi-Glace-
045.JPG

Phyllo-Wrapped "Hot Chocolate" with Chilled Summer Berry Consomme-
046.JPG
How did they deep-fry parcels of dough stuffed with chocolate? Such is the conundrum of the diner trying to dissect the construction of a masterpiece. We've moved from the fragrant pairing of basil oil in the oyster dish to a different application of the herb--a chilled soup, a consomme if you will, a deeply-colored jade green hue with an intense anise flavor freshened with mint and studded with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The perfect dipping sauce for a skewer of those crispy parcels of hot chocolate.

Gelato-Coconut, Pistachio, Strawberry, Chocolate, Lemon, Cappucino-
051.JPG
The measure of a great restaurant, a truly great restaurant, is not lost on the final course. Yet it is the final course, dessert, that is often over-shadowed by the opening dishes and the main act. Some proclaim that dessert must be a stunner, a towering display of molded-sugar exotic birds paired with cakes, torts, tartes, confections, cookes and pralines. Yet true beauty is often found in the most simple dishes.

Gelato may not be as rich as it's French counterpart ice cream, but its beauty lies in its pure, clean, true flavors--tart lemon, wild strawberry and exotic coconut. I often think Pastry Chefs are the quiet bunch that we sometimes forget. They arrive in the kitchen
early on while the rest of the staff is still sleeping, quietly creating intense flavors that we can only dream of replicating at home.

Chef Andre Soltner of the fabled Lutece once told me that he was simply a craftsman plying his art. Soltner said the job of a Chef is to serve his customers exceptional ingredients perfectly prepared--food with a soul yet without pretention and with nothing more to personally gain than having given his customers a unique, memorable dining experience. I’ve never forgotten what I learned from Soltner, and I remember it every time I think about the definition of a great Chef. Chef Luciano is one of the great craftsmen and we will miss him in Las Vegas.

%5Burl="http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Fine-Dining/Valentino/"]http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Fine-Dining/Valentino/

Day Three, Brunch-
Like Luciano Pellegrini, Chef Thomas Keller and his staff at Bouchon Bistro have quietly plied their trade in Las Vegas for many years. Often surpassed by the media foray over food celebrities like Guy Fieri, (who is opening a restaurant in Las Vegas in 2014), one does not cook within the Keller organization based simply on name recognition. You are all aware of the accolades afforded to Chef Keller and Per Se in New York and The French Laundry in Yountville. And like me, you are a passionate home cook who regularly uses Chef Keller’s cookbooks including Bouchon Bistro and Ad Hoc at Home, (the best fried chicken recipe I’ve ever found). I reckon it takes a wealth of talent, experience and dedication to even get interviewed to open oysters at a Keller restaurant and it shows in the food.

I would imagine that more champagne is poured at Sunday Brunch in Las Vegas than in any other American city. However, champagne connoisseur’s will be happy to know that the brunch menu at Bouchon Bistro includes 10 different champagne cocktails. I can attest that the “Hibiscus” cocktail with edible hisbiscus flower and syrup with Albrecht Cremant Brut from Alsace is delicious.

Part of the enjoyment of the dining experience Bouchon is found in the details—the white paper doily that rests on the bread plate, under the crisp, white linen napkin. The tiny ramekin of softened, salted butter. The waiter who delicately removes the layer of chilled, clarified butter from the small glass crock of “Rillettes aux Deux Saumons” (fresh and smoked salmon rillettes with toasted croutons, $14.75), revealing a terrine of both smoked and fresh salmon.

There were two minor quibbles about Bouchon, the restaurant opens for brunch at 8 a.m., but the fresh oyster bar doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Personally, I’m off the mind that if the restaurant is open, diners should be able to enjoy a half-dozen Willapa Bay oysters with their champagne.

The second fault was found when I ordered cheese. The menu lists six different cheeses, ($9.75 each), served with honeycomb. The waitress pulled a sort of cheese cheat sheet out of her apron pocket and said that she wasn’t supposed to do it, but she couldn’t remember the characteristics of each cheese. I ordered what she described off as the triple-crème L’Explorateur cow’s-milk cheese. Unfortunately she brought the Carmody aged cow’s-milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. The cheese was served with a dried fruit chutney and raisin bread, but the aforementioned honeycomb was missing. I didn’t fault the waitress, she was the victim of being intimidated when she was trained about the intricacies of the cheese menu, but it was an oversight nonetheless.

If you don’t have the time to spend enjoying the dining room at Bouchon, there are two small Bouchon Bakeries in the Venetion complex that offer the restaurant’s signature pastries, cookies and breakfast breads. Trust me on this, the croissant at Bouchon is far superior to the pre-made, trucked-in stuff they vend at Starbuck’s.

%5Burl="http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Fine-Dining/Bouchon/"]http://www.venetian.com/Las-Vegas-Restaurants/Fine-Dining/Bouchon/

So there we have it, a long weekend tasting the offerings at The Palazzo and Venetian. There were certainly some duds, but that was tempered by glorious dishes I won’t soon forget.

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Great reports David. Thanks! Nothing like corn meal and jalapeños... corn bread...hushpuppies...whatever.


Edited by gfweb (log)
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Thanks for the nice thoughts. I've added some comments on the photos of the dishes at Valentino. Las Vegas is truly a food lover's dream and it's always evolving, both good and bad. In the coming months, Las Vegas native Guy Fieri is opening a place on the Strip. I could care less, but I am quite pleased that Daniel Boulud is coming back to town. Bradley Ogden vacated Caesar's Palace so Gordon Ramsay could move in, but his new Hops and Harvest restaurant at Town Square is getting rave reviews from the locals. You won't have trouble finding wonderful places to dine in Las Vegas.

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I'd like to resumption this thread...headed to find Thai...Mexican or pizza... Why..we have a little baby and we don't need fine dinning...but solid, well seasoned, suggestions.


Thanks


My kids , live in Vegas. We have done Milo's and Archie's...both on our last trip.
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Its good to have Morels

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For Thai Lotus of Siam is an obvious choice, perhaps one of the best Thai restaurants in the US and every time on our rotation when we are in Las vegas

I'd like to resumption this thread...headed to find Thai...Mexican or pizza... Why..we have a little baby and we don't need fine dinning...but solid, well seasoned, suggestions.


Thanks


My kids , live in Vegas. We have done Milo's and Archie's...both on our last trip.
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I'd like to resumption this thread...headed to find Thai...Mexican or pizza... Why..we have a little baby and we don't need fine dinning...but solid, well seasoned, suggestions.

Thanks

My kids , live in Vegas. We have done Milo's and Archie's...both on our last trip.

The national press and James Beard nominations garnered by Lotus of Siam aren't an accident--it's incredibly good Thai food. Sounds like you'll be staying with family and have the use of a car, so I'd take a trip over to Spring Mountain Road and taste some of the great Asian offerings. Ping Pang Pong in the downtrodden Gold Coast Hotel is the best dim sum in town--the hotel just looks like it hasn't been updated since 1972.

For pizza, my local friends recommend Due Forni and Settebello. If you don't mind braving the casino and parking, I hear that Shawn McClains (Sage), new pizzeria at The Cosmopolitan is quite good.

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Thanks..

I heard Chada had some good thai.. also--- I wouldnt be opposed to a good PHO spot for me!!

Cheers

Doc Paully


Its good to have Morels

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Thanks..

I heard Chada had some good thai.. also--- I wouldnt be opposed to a good PHO spot for me!!

Cheers

Doc Paully

I haven't heard much about Chada, but Le Thai downtown has gotten some notice from local Food Writers and it's late-night hangout for some of the Chefs who work on the Strip. Downtown isn't the easiest in terms of parking, and there's a certain dive bar atmosphere, but I hear the food is good.

I'm not sure about Vietnamese/Pho shops, but I bet you would find something in one of the Asian malls along Spring Mountain Road.

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I'd like to resumption this thread...headed to find Thai...Mexican or pizza... Why..we have a little baby and we don't need fine dinning...but solid, well seasoned, suggestions.

Thanks

My kids , live in Vegas. We have done Milo's and Archie's...both on our last trip.

The national press and James Beard nominations garnered by Lotus of Siam aren't an accident--it's incredibly good Thai food. Sounds like you'll be staying with family and have the use of a car, so I'd take a trip over to Spring Mountain Road and taste some of the great Asian offerings. Ping Pang Pong in the downtrodden Gold Coast Hotel is the best dim sum in town--the hotel just looks like it hasn't been updated since 1972.

For pizza, my local friends recommend Due Forni and Settebello. If you don't mind braving the casino and parking, I hear that Shawn McClains (Sage), new pizzeria at The Cosmopolitan is quite good.

Is Ping Pang Pong better for dim sum than the newish KJ Dim Sum at the Rio? Any idea on how they compare price wise?

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I checked with a local friend and he tells me that KJ Dim Sum is getting some amazing reviews although he hasn't been there himself. Sounds like a cavernous hall as it seats 350 people. That wouldn't fit within my style of taking my time to really enjoy the dishes. Dim sum is one of those meals where the choices can be huge and the selection change daily so without a sample menu online it's hard to tell what they offer.

Ping Pang Pong is probably not close to 350 seats, maybe more like 100 at best. It fills up shortly after 11am for the dim sum, but it's worth it. Last time I was there they still do the it the old way with carts, not the off-the-menu format of some other dim sum places. Part of the fun and intrigue is watching those carts roll by your table and pointing at all the little nibbles you think look interesting. I personally favor their chicken feet and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf.

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Has anyone gone to Joe's Stone Crab? I know it's likely over priced, but I've been planning dinners there from the East Coast for years and drooling at the concept. I'm going to Vegas at the end of the month and if anyone has been there, I'd love to hear about their experience.


Edited by Meredith380 (log)

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Has anyone gone to Joe's Stone Crab? I know it's likely over priced, but I've been planning dinners there from the East Coast for years and drooling at the concept. I'm going to Vegas at the end of the month and if anyone has been there, I'd love to hear about their experience.

The reviews are just middle ground and the stone crab season doesn't start until the second week of October. I'm not sure, but if you go before then you might end up with frozen crab.

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Has anyone gone to Joe's Stone Crab? I know it's likely over priced, but I've been planning dinners there from the East Coast for years and drooling at the concept. I'm going to Vegas at the end of the month and if anyone has been there, I'd love to hear about their experience.

The reviews are just middle ground and the stone crab season doesn't start until the second week of October. I'm not sure, but if you go before then you might end up with frozen crab.

Might? WILL is the word to use. You WILL end up with frozen crab. How do you think they get it from South Florida to Southern Nevada?

As a local, my favorite "cheap and cheerful" restaurants are the hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints, Settebello pizza, and Hofbrauhaus.

Hofbrauhaus is touristy, and overpriced, but cheaper than a round-trip ticket to Munich. The food is solid, authentic Bavarian. And occasionally they sell a currywurst that brings me right back to my days in Berlin.

Settebello, based on the "worth a visit if you're in town" criterion deserves a Michelin star. It's worth a visit if you're in town. It will never get one, of course, being a relatively inexpensive brick-oven pizza joint in a Henderson strip mall. But it's worth a visit.

And the hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints are where I take EVERYONE who visits me for their first meal in Las Vegas. Everyone.

My favorite Thai joint is located on Sunset Avenue almost directly under the US-95 overpass. I have no idea what it's called. I also regularly eat at Market 168 (a pan-Asian supermarket). Their dim sum isn't quite as good as din tai fung. OK, it isn't as good. But it's cheap as chips and solid dumpling fare. I eat at the lunch counter at 168 at least twice a month. That makes it the most-visited restaurant in Las Vegas for me. So if you're looking for the "truly local dining option," that's where I'd go.

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Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Has anyone gone to Joe's Stone Crab? I know it's likely over priced, but I've been planning dinners there from the East Coast for years and drooling at the concept. I'm going to Vegas at the end of the month and if anyone has been there, I'd love to hear about their experience.

The reviews are just middle ground and the stone crab season doesn't start until the second week of October. I'm not sure, but if you go before then you might end up with frozen crab.

My favorite Thai joint is located on Sunset Avenue almost directly under the US-95 overpass. I have no idea what it's called. I also regularly eat at Market 168 (a pan-Asian supermarket). Their dim sum isn't quite as good as din tai fung. OK, it isn't as good. But it's cheap as chips and solid dumpling fare. I eat at the lunch counter at 168 at least twice a month. That makes it the most-visited restaurant in Las Vegas for me. So if you're looking for the "truly local dining option," that's where I'd go.

I believe the Thai place on Sunset that you are referring to is Penn's. It's in a little strip mall just east of the 95. I've eaten there several times and it's outstanding.

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Back in Las Vegas this weekend for 4 days of gluttony, highlighted by a private dinner at Le Cirque Saturday night.

One of my first stops on any trip to Las Vegas is Jean Philippe Patisserie at Aria. There aren't too many quality bakeries where I live, certainly not a patisserie headed by a Frenchman who wears multiple gold medals as a World Pastry Champion, (both as a competitor and coach).

I typically arrive in Las Vegas early afternoon, hungry after early morning flights but not so ravenous that I choose to stuff myself a few hours before dinner and unwilling on day one to pay $35 bucks for a Gordon Ramsay hamburger. Room service is expensive and arrives cold, so I make the trek to Jean Philippe and put together a Vegas/French-style picnic and take it back to the room.

Today my lunch started with three mini-sandwiches of tuna, brie and ham-

011.JPG

Caramel Mousse, Peanut Butter "Lollipop," Rosewater-Raspberry Macaroon on a Chocolate Stage-

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There are always a few surprises in Jean Philippe's pastries-a light vanilla mouse with a crunchy top

layer of caramel, silken peanut butter mousse dipped in chocolate and topped with salted peanuts and

the perfume of roses and raspberries in a tiny, perfectly-shaped macaroon.

Carrot "Cupcake"-

018.JPG

Forget any notion that this is a cupcake in the traditional sense. The only trait shared with a cupcake

is the shape. The intricate assembly starts with a center of carrot and pumpkin mousse, a robe of

carrot cake, a thin blanket of white chocolate and the outer coating of delicate carrot gelee. There is

no need for further description.

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. . . .

Carrot "Cupcake"-

attachicon.gif018.JPG

Forget any notion that this is a cupcake in the traditional sense. The only trait shared with a cupcake

is the shape. The intricate assembly starts with a center of carrot and pumpkin mousse, a robe of

carrot cake, a thin blanket of white chocolate and the outer coating of delicate carrot gelee. There is

no need for further description.

Oh, yes there is (need for further description)!

Was this a sweet, inthe stricter sense of the word, or was it almost savoury? Consistency of the carrot-pumpkin mousse?


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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. . . .

Carrot "Cupcake"-

attachicon.gif018.JPG

Forget any notion that this is a cupcake in the traditional sense. The only trait shared with a cupcake

is the shape. The intricate assembly starts with a center of carrot and pumpkin mousse, a robe of

carrot cake, a thin blanket of white chocolate and the outer coating of delicate carrot gelee. There is

no need for further description.

Oh, yes there is (need for further description)!

Was this a sweet, inthe stricter sense of the word, or was it almost savoury? Consistency of the carrot-pumpkin mousse?

Definately sweet. One minor criticism of the French, in my opinion, is that they are heavy-handed with the sugar. A few bites is enough. The mousse, like all the mousse and custards at Jean Philippe, is incredibly silken but with a firm body. I'm always in amazement at how they can infuse such intense flavor into what appears on first glance to be vanilla pudding. Delicious.

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How were the mini-sandwiches?

Also, I've read that the people behind Le Cirqure popularized the now ubqiutous Pasta Priamavera Sauce. I've also read that it was someone else. Do they care?

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How were the mini-sandwiches?

Also, I've read that the people behind Le Cirqure popularized the now ubqiutous Pasta Priamavera Sauce. I've also read that it was someone else. Do they care?

Delicious, and like a very good sandwich, the bread was freshly made in the Patisserie, light on the dressing and mayonnaise, and delicate micro-greens for just a bit of texture.

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Last night I met with my local friends John and Alexandra. My only requirements were that a) they come pick me up and b) they take me off the Strip to restaurants where the most exciting and creative cooking is taking place in Las Vegas.

Anyone who frequents Las Vegas for dining has been less than impressed with the new offerings on the Strip in recent years--horrifically over-priced sushi from Nobu, burgers, steaks, pub grub and a plethora of billboards blasting the arrival of Gordon Ramsay and more "Celebrity Chef" arrivals than you can stomach-Giada, Buddy, Guy and something else from Bobby. Honestly, most of these places only see the namesake Chef at best twice a year and other than a name over the door, the cooking often falls short. Yet within a short drive of the Strip, in the "burbs" no less, you will find a number of new restaurants, Japanese and Asian to be specific, run by young, talented, creative Chefs and crew who've shrugged off the regular paycheck delivered every two weeks by the MGM corporation in order to pursue their dream of owning and running a restaurant their way--and it's paying off.

Our first stop was the newly opened SOHO Japanese Restaurant, https://www.facebook.com/SohoJapaneseRestaurant, owned by Chef John Chien Lee, a native of Taiwan who left his post as Executive Chef at Social House Restaurant on the Strip to pursue his dream of serving local residents fresh, Japanese-style seafood. The restaurant has only been opened a few weeks, but you would never know based on the food and professionalism of the service staff. In fact, our waiter also works at Pierre Gagnaire's Twist and Nobu on the Strip. Five-Star service in a new strip mall restaurant no less.

To give you a sense of the detail the Chef goes to, consider the Yellowtail Sashimi. Undoubtedly one of the more popular fish on any sashimi menu, it can cost upwards of $30 at the big hotels. At SOHO, the yellowtail was more than reasonably priced at $10 and easily served the three of us. It could have served four. But the devil is always in the details and this yellowtail was garnished with thin slices of Jalapeno "tempura," micro cilantro, garlic oil, yuzu soy, (made from fresh yuzu fruit), and "garlic dust." The Chef told me that he starts by tempering the garlic in milk, drying then dehydrating it, and then grating the cloves into a dust. The jalapeno and garlic were notable, but not in a bold, in-your-face manner lest the garnishes would draw attention away from the yellowtail.

Trust me, the likelihood of even getting access to ask a head Chef on the Strip how he prepared garlic dust, (let alone a server presenting you with four different Japanese beers to taste before ordering), probably wouldn't happen for folks like us.

Next up, our experience at a Japanese restaurant serving dessert tasting menus crafted by a Chef trained in Tokyo, Italy and France. Her tiny shop, seating no more than 12 customers, is plating Michelin-level desserts and the public is noticing.

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